Spain brings the heat to SailGP’s Abu Dhabi debut with two race wins 

Diego Botin, driver of Spain SailGP Team, runs across the Spain SailGP Team F50 catamaran Photo: Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council was met with a light wind forecast, but the Spain SailGP Team did not let that slow them down but instead, drive them to win two of three races. After a phenomenal opening day for the team, Diego Botín came off the waters of Mina Zayed accumulating the most points with New Zealand and the United States not far behind – respectively sitting in second and third place overall.  

The first race of the day finished nearly identical to the final race of the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas last month with New Zealand, Australia and Canada finishing in the top three. Peter Burling and the New Zealand team led the fleet the entire race, crossing the finish line in first place – starting the weekend in the same fashion they ended at the last event in Dubai. 

Canada managed to accelerate past the Aussies – identifying a small gust of wind on the racecourse – and crossed the finish line in second place. However, Phil Robertson’s Canada team incurred a penalty for not giving Tom Slingsby’s Aussies enough room at the final mark right before the finish line – bringing fans back to the three boat finish in Dubai. Although post race, on reflection, when the umpires reviewed the footage, they admitted that it should not have been a penalty. 

Robertson said: “I don’t know who the favorites are, but it is definitely not us that’s for sure. We keep getting penalties throughout the life of Canada SailGP.”

With the start so crucial on the new ‘slalom style’ race course, the second race of the day saw ROCKWOOL Denmark, the new-look United States team and Germany make the best of the light conditions and cross the line first. 

Young driver of ‘Los Gallos’, Botín, managed to trail not too far behind the front of the fleet, turning at the first racemark just after United States’ Taylor Canfield and ROCKWOOL Denmark’s Nathan Outteridge – who is stepping in for driver Nicolai Sehested currently on paternity leave. 

Spain and the United States split the course as they approached the final mark causing Canfield to slow down as he encountered the rest of the fleet. With one hull in the water, Spain managed to glide forward and with the right of way, crossed the US team to take first place – a massive improvement from dead last in the previous race. The US team took an impressive second, with the surprise being race one’s winners, the Kiwi’s, finishing last. 

For the third and final race of the day, Botín mastered the start, gaining the inside position and right of way, pushing New Zealand to second. The Kiwi’s and ‘Los Gallos’ were neck and neck until Spain pulled a tactical maneuver at the third mark, forcing New Zealand to take a less than ideal route with less wind. The strategic move paid off and Spain secured its second win of the day, with Burling second.  

Botín said: “We started the day in a poor position with a last place in the first race. But it was amazing to come back with two wins and be on top of the leaderboard. It was super close so everything will be decided tomorrow but we will see.”

It happened to be a coincidence that the team rocketed into victory on the first day in Abu Dhabi with the news announced earlier in the day that Spain SailGP Team and EOS-X, the space tourism company, join forces for the rest of Season 4 – the first time a brand in this field sponsors a professional sports team.

It was an impressive opening day for Canfield who clawed back from a ninth in the first race, to follow up with a second and third, to finish the day in third place behind New Zealand – and just two points off leader Spain heading into day two. 

Canfield said: “I think our guys did a very good job with the wind – there were a lot of ups and downs. We have to keep the pressure on and we plan to be in the top three tomorrow for the final race.”

Following the racing, the day finished with a spectacular performance from the Back for Good trio – Take That – performing classic hits including ShineRelight My Fire and Rule The World in front of a packed crowd. It was a historic moment as it was the first time SailGP combined its action-packed racing with live entertainment – and there’s more to come over the weekend. For the final day of racing, DJ Saif and Sound, one of the UAE’s biggest music personalities, will join onsite for fans to enjoy. 

The final day of the Mubadala Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council gets underway at 2 p.m. local time tomorrow, January 13, and can be seen on Abu Dhabi Sports.


Day Two Racing: Sunday, January 14, 2.00 p.m – 3.30 p.m. GST


1 // Spain 21 points

2 // New Zealand 20 points

3 // United States 19 points 

4 // Canada 19 points

5 // France 17 points

6 // Australia 16 points 

7 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 16 points

8 // Emirates Great Britain 12 points

9 // Germany 12 points 

10 // Switzerland 9 points

Spanish: España empieza mal y acaba bien en Abu Dhabi


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